US weapons won’t fill military gap between Taiwan and mainland

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By Wei Dongxu Source: Global Times

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The White House is moving forward with three sales of advanced weaponry to the island of Taiwan, sending in recent days a notification of the deals to Congress for approval, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

This bill is much likely to be approved. Now that the White House has submitted it to Congress, there must have been the necessary back-channels of communication within the Washington’s inner circles.

Although the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) of 1979 states that the US can sell only defensive weapons to the island of Taiwan, the US has been helping develop the offensive capability of the military on the island of Taiwan under the guise of self-defense.

For example, a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) proposed to Congress, which can launch rockets for precise strikes against landing forces or naval vessels, can also launch tactical ballistic missiles for attacks against distant targets — with definite offensive attributes.

Among these weapons and equipment, HIMARS is of great concern because its lethality is very strong. In the future, the US may sell long-range precision-guided munitions to Taiwan. The degree to which US arms sale will improve the military on the island depends on what equipment is sold, ammunition and also upgrade capabilities — especially if the US readily upgrade those weapons to give them greater precision firepower at longer distances.

But overall, whatever the US sells to Taiwan, the balance of military strength between the island’s military and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will not change — Chinese mainland will always retain the upper hand.

This is because the PLA has a firm control of air and sea. The Chinese mainland has an absolute dominance with long-range precision striking capabilities too. Washington hopes to encourage separatist forces through the sale of select weapons and equipment. However, the strength of the military on the island remains the same. When the US sells weapons and equipment, its first purpose is to make money. Its second purpose is to cause conflicts in cross-Straits relations and counterbalance the development of the Chinese mainland. It is not sincere to help the military on the island improve its overall combat capability.

However, the authorities of Taiwan regional leader Tsai Ing-wen do not seem to have a clear awareness of the aim of US arms sales. Since Tsai took office in 2016, Taiwan authorities have heavily invested in weaponry made by the US. Their dependence on support from the US to resist the Chinese mainland’s pursuit of reunification is destined to be a dead end. Only by abiding by the 1992 Consensus can the island create a secure situation, and gain more opportunities to advance its development.

Washington’s arms sales to Taiwan have been significantly influenced by its weapon manufacturers, who have close ties with political elites at the White House. In an attempt to get more orders or make more profits for these arms dealers, some US politicians will not hesitate to sabotage China-US relations — or trigger more conflicts across the Straits.

In July, China announced to sanction US company Lockheed Martin, the main contractor involved in the latest arms package to Taiwan. This was a necessary move to safeguard national interests. This can work as a kind of countermeasure and warning against US weaponry contractors selling arms which undermines the peace across the Straits. The possibility that China will increase sanctions on these dealers cannot be ruled out. They must pay the price.

Additionally, the Chinese mainland should boost its military capability to safeguard peace and stability of the Straits, keeping its absolute advantage over Taiwan. In this scenario, no matter what kind of US weaponry Taiwan purchases, it will be in vain.

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